The best of you in Jahiliyyah are the best of you in Islam, as long as they have understanding. [Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)]1
Khalid and the tall boy glared at each other. Slowly they began to move in a circle, the gaze of each fixed intently upon the other, each looking for an opening for his attack and each wary of the tricks that the other might use. There was no hostility in their eyes-just a keen rivalry and an unshakeable determination to win. And Khalid found it necessary to be cautious, for the tall boy was left-handed and thus enjoyed the advantage that all left-handers have over their opponents in a fight.
Wrestling was a popular pastime among the boys of Arabia, and they frequently fought each other. There was no malice in these fights. It was a sport, and boys were trained in wrestling as one of the requirements of Arab manhood. But these two boys were the strongest of all and the leaders of boys of their age. This match was, so to speak, a fight for the heavy-weight title. The boys were well matched. Of about the same age, they were in their early teens. Both were tall and lean, and newly formed muscles rippled on their shoulders and arms as their sweating bodies glistened in the sun. The tall boy was perhaps an inch taller than Khalid. And their faces were so alike that one was often mistaken for the other.
Khalid threw the tall boy; but this was no ordinary fall. As the tall boy fell there was a distinct crack, and a moment later the grotesquely twisted shape of his leg showed that the bone had broken. The stricken boy lay motionless on the ground, and Khalid stared in horror at the broken leg of his friend and nephew. (The tall boy's mother, Hantamah bint Hisham bin Al Mugheerah, was Khalid's first cousin.)
In course of time the injury healed and the leg of the tall boy became whole and strong again. He would wrestle again and be among the best of wrestlers. And the two boys would remain friends. But while they were both intelligent, strong and forceful by nature, neither had patience or tact. They were to continue to compete with each other in almost everything that they did.
The reader should make a mental note of this tall boy for he was to play an important role in the life of Khalid. He was the son of Al Khattab, and his name was Umar.
Soon after his birth Khalid was taken away from his mother, as was the custom among the better families of the Quraish, and sent to a Bedouin tribe in the desert. A foster mother was found for him, who would nurse him and bring him up. In the clear, dry and unpolluted air of the desert, the foundations were laid of the tremendous strength and robust health that Khalid was to enjoy throughout his life. The desert seemed to suit Khalid, and he came to love it and feel at home in it. From babyhood he grew into early childhood among the Arabs of the desert; and when he was five or six years old he returned to his parents' home in Makkah.
Some time in his childhood he had an attack of small pox, but it was a mild attack and caused no damage except to leave a few pock marks on his face. These marks did not, however, spoil his ruggedly handsome face, which was to cause a lot of trouble among the belles of Arabia - and some -to himself too.
The child became a boy; and as he reached the age of boyhood he came to realise with a thrill of pride that he was the son of a chief. His father, Al Waleed, was the Chief of the Bani Makhzum - one of the noblest clans of the Quraish - and was also known in Makkah by the title of AlWaheed- the Unique. Khalid's upbringing was now undertaken by the father who did his best (and with excellent success) to instil into Khalid all the virtues of Arab manhood-courage, fighting skill, toughness and generosity. Al Waleed took great pride in his family and his ancestors, and told Khalid that he was:
Khalid son of Al Waleed son of Al Mugheerah son of Abdullah son of Umar son of Makhzum (after whom the clan was named) son of Yaqza son of Murra son of Kab son of Luwayy son of Ghalib son of Fihr son of Malik son of Al Nazr son of Kinana son of Khuzeima son of Mudrika son of Ilyas son of Muzar son of Nizar son of Ma'add son of Adnan son of Udd son of Muqawwam son of Nahur son of Teirah son of Ya'rub son of Yashjub son of Nabit son of Isma'il (regarded as the father of the Arabians) son of Ibrahim (the prophet) son of Azar son of Nahur son of Sarugh (or Asragh) son of Arghu son of Falakh son of Eibar son of Shalakh son of Arfakhshaz son of Saam son of Noah (the prophet) son of Lamk son of Mattushalakh son of Idris (the prophet) son of Yard son of Muhla'il son of Qeinan son of Anush son of Sheis son of Adam (the father of mankind) 1. Bukhari, from Abu Hurayrah. Sahih Al-Jami Al-Saghir No. 3267
The great tribe of the Quraish that inhabited Makkah had evolved a clear-cut division of privilege and responsibility among its major clans. The three leading clans of the Quraish were the Bani Hashim, the Bani Abduddar (of which the Bani Umayyah was an offshoot) and the Bani Makhzum. The Bani Makhzum was responsible for matters of war. This clan bred and trained the horses on which the Quraish rode to war; it made arrangements for the preparation and provisioning of expeditions; and frequently it provided the officers to lead Quraish groups into battle. This role of the Bani Makhzum set the atmosphere in which Khalid was to grow up.
While still a child he was taught to ride. As a Makhzumi he had to be a perfect rider and soon acquired mastery over the art of horsemanship. But it was not enough to be able to handle trained horses; he had lo be able to ride any horse. He would be given young, untrained colts and had to break them and train them into perfectly obedient and well-disciplined war horses. The Bani Makhzum were among the best horsemen of Arabia, and Khalid became one of the best horsemen of the Bani Makhzum. Moreover, no Arab could claim to be a good rider if he only knew horses; he had to be just as good on a camel, for both animals were vital for Arab warfare. The horse was used for fighting, and the camel for long marches, in which horses were tagged along unmounted.
Along with riding, Khalid learned the skills of combat. He learnt to use all weapons-the spear, the lance, the bow and the sword. He learnt to fight on horseback and on foot. While he became skilful in the use of all weapons, the ones for which he appears to have had a natural gift were the lance, used while charging on horseback, and the sword for mounted and dismounted duelling. The sword was regarded by the Arabs as the weapon of chivalry, for this brought one nearest to one's adversary; and in sword fighting one's survival depended on strength and skill and not on keeping at a safe distant from the opponent. The sword was the most trusted weapon.
As Khalid grew to manhood, he attained a great height-over six feet. His shoulders widened, his chest expanded and the muscles hardened on his lean and athletic body. His beard appeared full and thick on his face, With his fine physique, his forceful personality, and his skill at riding and the use of weapons, he soon became a popular and much-admired figure in Makkah. As a wrestler, he climbed high on the ladder of achievement, combining consummate skill with enormous strength.
The Arabs had large families, the father often having several wives to increase his offspring, Al Waleed was one of six brothers. (There may have been more, but the names of only six have been recorded.) And the children of Al Waleed that we know of were five sons and two daughters. The sons were Khalid, Waleed (named after the father), Hisham, Ammarah and Abdu Shams. The daughters were Faktah and Fatimah.
Al Waleed was a wealthy man. Thus Khalid did not have to work for a living and could concentrate on learning the skills of riding and fighting. Because of this wealthy background, Khalid grew up to disregard economy and became known for his lavish spending and his generosity to all who appealed to him for help. This generosity was one day to get him into serious trouble.
Al Waleed was a wealthy man. But the Quraish were a surprisingly democratic people and everybody was required to do some work or the other-either for remuneration or just to be a useful member of society. And Al Waleed, who hired and paid a large number of employees, would work himself. In his spare time he was a blacksmith 1 and butcher 2 , slaughtering animals for the clan. He was also a trader, and along with other clans would organise and send trade caravans to neighbouring countries. On more than one occasion Khalid accompanied trade caravans to Syria and visited the great trading cities of that fair province of Rome. Here he would meet the Christian Arabs of the Ghassan, Persians from Ctesiphon, Copts from Egypt, and the Romans of the Byzantine Empire.
Khalid had many friends with whom, as with is brothers he would ride and hunt. When not engaged outdoors they would recite poetry, recount genealogical lines and have bouts of drinking. Some of these friends were to play an important part in Khalid's life and in this story; and the ones deserving special mention besides Umar, were Amr bin Al Aas and Abul Hakam. The latter's personal name was Amr bin Hisham bin Al Mugheerah, though he was to earn yet another name later: Abu Jahl. He was an elder cousin of Khalid. And there was Abul Hakam's son, Ikrimah, Khalid's favourite nephew and bosom friend.
Al Waleed was not only the father and mentor of his sons; he was also their military instructor, and from him Khalid got his first lesson in the art of warfare. He learnt how to move fast across the desert, how to approach a hostile settlement, how to attack it. He learned the importance of catching the enemy unawares, of attacking him at an unexpected moment and pursuing him when he broke and fled. This warfare was essentially tribal, but the Arabs well knew the value of speed, mobility and surprise, and tribal warfare was mainly based on offensive tactics.
On reaching maturity Khalid's main interest became war and this soon reached the proportions of an obsession. Khalid's thoughts were thoughts of battle; his ambitions were ambitions of victory. His urges were violent and his entire psychological make-up was military. He would dream of fighting great battles and winning great victories, himself always the champion-admired and cheered by all. He promised himself battle. He promised himself victory. And he promised himself lots and lots of blood. Unknown to him, destiny had much the same ideas about Khalid, son of Al Waleed.
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